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Review: Pacific Rim

Cinema Review

pacific rimI went to see this film mainly because I have enjoyed the previous work of director Guillermo del Toro. I have only a casual knowledge of anime and in particular stories of giant human-piloted machines (or mecha) that fight monsters so I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this. This film succeeds in giving us the spectacle of destruction that it promises but still keeps the story grounded on a human scale.

When Earth comes under attack from an invasion of giant monsters (called kaiju) from a rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to another dimension the nations unite to create giant machines capable of killing them. These machines are called Jaegers and have to be operated by two pilots whose minds are linked by a technology called the drift. Because these pilots are putting their lives at risk to save they are celebrities and some have the ego to match.

This all explained in narration and montage by one of the pilots Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) who pilots a jaeger called Gypsy Danger with his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff). We get to meet their commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and the ops technician who runs the monitors and comms op Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr.). Raleigh and Yancy take Gypsy Danger out against an enormous kaiju. The fight does not go the brothers’ way Yancy gets killed leaving Raleigh to kill the kaiju alone. All this happens before the title screen comes up and the film starts.

The film restarts five years later and the world leaders tell Pentecost that they are shutting down the Jaeger programme in favour of building giant walls to keep out the kaiju. Raleigh is a homeless drifter working on the construction of one of the walls. Pentecost decides that even if the governments have turned their backs on them the Earth still needs them so he wants to keep going with one final push to try to seal up the rift. He recruits Raleigh who is afraid of going back into the drift since he was connected Yancy when he died.

The story of the fallen hero who re-enters the battle and regains his confidence and the respect of his comrades is not exactly novel but it is the backbone of a story that really does a good amount of character development for a film that is about giant robots killing monsters. Pentecost has a young assistant Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who really wants to be a pilot and is by far the best qualified to drift with Raleigh. Pentecost is reluctant to let her but he relents and we learn the reason for this fatherly concern later as we see more of her backstory.

The big fights are really well done and there’s an authentic sense of damage to real things as the kaiju tear up chunks of cities and the jaegers tear up the kaiju. During the battles the focus is always kept on the human crews in the jaegers giving a sense of the stakes as the kaiju fight back.

The weakest thing in the film for me was the pair of scientists they have as their research team Dr Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottleib (Burn Gorman) that are crudely drawn cartoons of scientists and who constantly bicker like they are married to each other. They are working on figuring out where the kaiju are coming form and if they can seal the rift. To do this they have to contact Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), a black market dealer in kaiju parts, to get them a kaiji brain. Geiszler was bearable but Gottlieb seemed to just be weird for the sake it and it wasn’t convincing. There was also the arrogant jaeger pilot Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky) whose entire character seemed to be defined by the chip on his shoulder about Raleigh coming back.

The design of future Hong Kong really does fit in with idea of a society that has gotten used to kaiju attacks with the city rebuilt around the bones of dead kaiju too large to be removed and kaiju souvenirs and merchandise for sale. There’s even a temple of a cult of kaiju worshippers in a huge kaiju skull.

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would though not as much as other people did. It is exactly what you expect it to be and if you think you’ll enjoy that you probably will because it is made very well by someone with a determination to get it right. Idris Elba deserves the praise he gets for his performance though Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Hunnam give credible performances too. It is a big loud action film so if you are going to see it this is one that will probably look better on the big screen

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Film

 

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Review: Mama

DVD Review

Mama DVD 001This is another creepy horror from director Guillermo del Toro that has children as main characters. He really has a way with stories that use the perspective of children to access the deepest most primitive fears of the darkness and the unknown.

Two little girls Lilly and Victoria are kidnapped by their father Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who takes them to a remote cabin in the woods. Since he has killed their mother there’s a strong hint he’s going to kill them and himself but then Mama appears and kills him.

Five years later and Jeffrey’s brother Lucas (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has not given up hunting for his Jeffrey and his daughters even though he has spent all his money hiring two men to searching the whole county. Then one day they find Jeffrey’s car abandoned in the woods after it went off the road and they soon come across the cabin. Inside are the two little girls who have gone totally feral and behave like frightened wild animals

The girls are in the clinic of psychologist Dr Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) who is workings on getting the girls socialized again. This is going better with older girl Victoria (Megan Charpentier) but there has only been limited success with Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) who was only a baby when their father died. He believes the girls created Mama out of their imagination.

Lucas wants custody of the two girls but their mother’s aunt Jean (Jane Moffat) has also applied for custody on the grounds that she can offer them a stable home while Lucas is a struggling artist and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) is a bass guitarist with a rock band and tours around a lot. Before the girls were found Annabel was happy with her rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and not really ready to settle down and have kids but she knows how much Lucas wants them. The court will go along with Dr Dreyfuss’s recommendation and he prefers Lucas and Annabel but only on the condition that they move into a large house owned by his institute so he can continue with his work with the girls.

When they move into the house at first it seems the girls are still clinging on to their Mama fantasy but it gets more obvious to Annabel as things go on that Mama is real presence and a very real threat to Lucas, Annabel and the girls.

The film is good at creating a creepy atmosphere with a consistently k muted look full of dark shadows where Mama hides. The Mama CGI gets less scary the more she appears later in the film but it was never too distracting. The children playing Victoria and Lily really are very good with a mixture of innocence and vulnerability and wildness and danger.

Annabel starts the film not wanting to have children so of course the film has her looking after the children on her own and trying to protect them from the jealous clutches of Mama. At first she’s doing it out of her love of Lucas but later she’s willing to fight the angry spirit for the girls. It is a bit of an abrupt turnaround but it’s typical of films to condense emotional arcs like this and Jessica manages to pull it off okay.

This is an effective ghost story with a straightforward plot that relies on creepy atmosphere more than gore.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Film

 

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Review: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

There’s seem to have been an all out hate-fest on this film and I not going to try rebalance it with my own views on the film .Sure it’s not a classic and maybe it isn’t as good as the original made for TV film that I have never seen or heard about or even heard anyone talking about. I have to just give an honest assessment of how I found the film I watched with no regard to other people’s views on it and I found it was a creepy film that was well acted but perhaps let down some hoary old clichés making an appearance in the writing.

In a short prologue we learn that an artist called Blackwood had his young son stolen from him by a race of ugly tiny creatures who can’t stand bright light and live behind a grate in his cellar. He kills one of servants to give them the teeth that they are after but they told him they only want children’s’ teeth and they take him instead.

Eight-year-old Sally (Bailee Madison) is flown across the country to stay with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his partner Kim (Katie Holmes) in their big old house that they have bought to restore and sell on. Alex is an ambitious architect who wants to use the restoration as a demonstration of his skills to potential clients. While he loves his daughter he’s not very happy that his ex-wife has dumped Sally on him during a time that is important in his career. Kim is uncomfortable helping Alex look after Sally since she has no experience with children and worries about getting it wrong. Sally knows all this so she’s feeling a bit unloved.

Sally goes exploring the garden of the house and she hears voices whispering her name, the voices of the nasty little creeps from the prologue. Sally follows voices that leads her to a window to basement that neither Alex of Kim new existed but we saw this place in the prologue. It’s the place where the servant was killed and there’s the grate with the little creatures sealed up behind it. Sally is fascinated by the voices and when no-one is looking she sneaks down into the basement with a wrench and unscrews the bolts holding the grate in place. Harris the gardener goes back down later to put the grate in place because he knows what’s behind it, but the little creatures attack him and he ends up badly injured in hospital.

The creatures are after Sally and they appear in her room, whispering nasty little half-truths about how her parents don’t want her but they do. At first she thinks the creatures are friendly but its not long before their hostile nature shows. When they rip up Kim’s clothes her father he blames Sally but Kim doubts she did it. The creatures attack her in her bath and still her father blames her but Kim knows she is showing signs of genuine fear. Alex insists on calling in a psychiatrist who prescribes pills to make her less annoying to Alex. This leaves Sally feeling so alone and desperate that she calls her mother and pleads with her to let her come back home but her mother brushes her off. Naturally she is terrified because she thinks she is on her own against creatures that want to steal her away to some unknown but no doubt horrible fate.

This film had a lot real nice scary atmospheric scenes and Bailee Madison was very convincing as Sally. There  were a few clunky bit of exposition but I’m not too put off by that and it didn’t drag me out of the film. The CGI creatures were definitely scarier when they were in dark than when we get to see them but they were okay.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Film

 

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